New York is getting a Buñuel In Mexico retrospective. I wish them luck – I prefer to space these out, though after Death in the Garden and Nazarin this one’s my third of the year.

Quintin is Fernando Soler of Susana, walks out on his family after he catches his wife cheating and she hollers that their daughter isn’t his. Pretty good 20-year edit while the camera’s in a pantry, now the wife is dying and wants Q to know she was lying, while Q is off being a dangerous asshole club boss. Their daughter Marta has been raised by an abusive stepdad, she runs off to the city with her man Paco (Rubén Rojo of Brainiac), immediately runs into her dad who decides to kill Paco for some minor slight. It all gets cleared up in time, nobody dies except probably the mom, and Q is forgiven for some reason. MVPs are Q’s comic henchmen smarter than their boss: Angelito (Fernando Soto, Lupita’s brother in Illusions Travel by Streetcar) and Home Run.

Q, Angelito, Home Run, Stepdad (Roberto Meyer of at least ten Buñuels):

Happy young couple:

Q explains his philosophy:

It’s time once again for Locorazo, a home viewing series of films that played the Locarno Festival five years ago. This one played in the “Filmmakers of the Present” section for first and second features – in this case it’s her first solo feature, the previous two being collaborations with her husband Nicolas Pereda (Fauna), who only assists on this one (plus thanks in the credits to Joshua Bonnetta and Matias Pineiro).

Stories about lingering ghosts and missing shadows, a witch, psychic animals and astronomical events, told at night, often via narrator. “We live in a conscious universe, we just do not realize it.”

Dudes hanging out smoking, usually at night. The subjects of the stories are sometimes seen at an indifferent distance from the camera. A few unique visual moments: a text list of animals that can see better at night, a beach shot with an absurdly low horizon line.

The director in Mubi:

The concept of the search and searching was a central idea in the film and in the Faust myth. Much of the time we learn the characters are searching for a shadow, a man, et cetera. The theme of the search was something important for me to use, but also important to continue without a resolution. Faust, after all, wants nothing more than to unlock the keys to the universe and himself—something that, like Faust, we are far from doing. I’m never looking for a particular thing, but I’m always in the process of searching and exploring. I’m consumed by questions, which through the seeking of answer continually opens up new questions.

Buñuel’s least-well dubbed movie, filmed in Mexico and spoken in French. Diamond miners and soldiers are having a showdown when a mysterious stranger wanders into town, but instead of impressing everyone with his skills a la Yojimbo he’s an asshole to everyone – this is Shark (That is the Dawn‘s doctor Georges Marchal), who needs a place to stay so he shacks up with prostitute Simone Signoret, who is beloved of miner Castin (Clouzot regular Charles Vanel).

The miners-vs-soldiers war reaches a climax in a midnight firing squad which leads to a riot. Our heroes escape (with fake priest Michel Piccoli and a mute girl: Michèle Girardon of the earliest Rohmers), getting very lost in the jungle, walking in circles. They reach the promised land, finding a crashed plane full of food and jewels along the way, rescued and rich, but Castin goes mad, throwing his diamonds in the lake and murdering everyone.

Larsen:

Politically the movie may side with the miners, but once this crew forms and heads into the jungle, Buñuel is more interested in exploring the hypocrisies that exist in every human heart. And so the priest is a fraud, the prostitute is an opportunist, and the miner loses his mind … Death in the Garden concludes with a more subversive poetic image: two figures blithely paddling across a South American lake as if they were in a Venetian gondola, when in fact a literal and spiritual wilderness surrounds them.

About time I rewatched this. Francisco Rabal is our priest (also a monk in The Nun), and the prostitute who ruins him when he takes her in after a bloody fight is Rita Macedo of Archibaldo de la Cruz. He and Beatriz (Marga López, star of a couple Taboada movies) take a pilgrimage (aka get the hell out of town before the law catches them) and keep running into the same old people from town. Beatriz’s sinister man Pinto finds her, dwarf Ujo (Simon of the Desert‘s Jesús Fernández in his first Bunuel film) follows Andara around. I’m sure there are Bunuelian themes of repetition without escape, and of the truly religious vs. common churchgoers (and the absurdity of both).

Part 1: The Golden Sea

I watched this in college on bootleg VHS for an ill-fated report on Lang’s cinema, and remembered pretty much nothing. A story in two parts, initially set in America with rival adventurers Kay Hoog and Lio Sha. These are meant to be American names? Kay is rich as hell, going after Peruvian gold despite Lio’s gang The Spiders warning him away. Even this early, Lang was into surveillance tech – Lio has an electric mirror showing a view of the next room: a webcam 100 years ahead of its time.

Kay in foreground, Lio being molested at the tables, Georgia flag in Mexican cantina:

Our teams travel to Mexico, hop a balloon over Chile, Kay parachutes out and immediately rescues the Princess of the Sun from a snake. Lio is safely captured, is to be sacrificed, while the Princess swoons for Hoog in her secret waterfall cavern. I love that the drama is less that a girl is gonna get sacrificed and her nemesis is launching a reluctant rescue mission, it’s that the Princess performing the sacrifice doesn’t wanna but her dad says she has to. A chaotic rescue, they find and steal the gold on their way out, then the spiders start killing each other in a frenzy over the gold, and also light the “holy candle” which is a bomb fuse, flooding the cave. The movie opened with a message in a bottle, and nearly ends with Hoog and rescued/kidnapped Princess adrift in a basket. It actually ends back at the Hoog Mansion when he runs out for an errand, returns to find his princess dead with a toy spider on her.

Princess Dagover in over her head:

The servants get into the wine:


Part 2: The Diamond Ship

Lio seeks a stone for a Chinese client. The opening robbery is filmed at an angle that just doesn’t work, not high enough, very un-Lang. Kay aims to stop the Spiders, still miffed that they killed his princess. With a single edit, Kay jumps off a plane onto a rooftop, hmmm. He hangs out in an opium den to scout for clues, spots Lio and takes her hostage, but they drop him through a trap door into a flooding pit from which he improbably manages to escape. I would’ve been happy watching Kay Hoog continue to escape from implausible scenarios, but the movie feels compelled to set up a big score for us, team Spider swimming in their full black bodysuits (with shoes and masks) to a diamond-laden boat. Somehow this leads to a final fight in a poison cave in the Falkland islands, a four-fingered villain and another kidnapped daughter, but it’s hard to pay attention whenever Kay isn’t falling through trap doors. Ultimately the plastic spiders and the Kay Hoog t-shirts weren’t selling, so the series was cancelled before they made a third episode.

Nemeses:

Kay was Carl de Vogt, who worked long enough to appear in a 1960’s Mabuse. His arch-nemesis Lio Sha’s real name was the just-as-unlikely Ressel Orla. A Jew in Berlin, she escaped the holocaust by dying of illness in the early 1930’s. Lil Dagover (of Lang’s Harakiri the same year) played the Princess of the Sun, and part two’s Diamond King (with the kidnapped daughter) was Rudolf Lettinger (in Cabinet of Dr. Caligari the same year).

Conference Call:

Caligari Man with Kidnapped Daughter:

Ben Model’s music seems fine, but after five minutes I realized I could be playing Zorn’s Nostradamus: The Death of Satan instead, so I did… then The Ninth Circle… so, the Simulacrum crew of Hollenberg / Medeski / Grohowski, and adding Marsella in the second half of The Golden Lake. For part two I played Harriet Tubman’s The Terror End of Beauty. If you keep falling asleep, resuming the movie where you left off the next night but starting the album over, Harriet Tubman is like the miracle of the oil lasting eight nights. But ultimately the movie is too long, so I moved on to their previous LP Araminta feat. Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet.

Dave Kehr says it best, as usual:

Fascinating … though it no longer plays particularly well. Already at this primitive stage in his development Lang was conjuring vast international conspiracies and drawing his hapless heroes into intractable webs of fate. The form is here, the meaning would come later. The visuals too are stamped with Lang’s personality; no one carved up screen space with his precision and expressiveness.

Our feelgood closing film was the opposite of Sirens, which claimed not to be a “rock doc” but was one. Castro set out to make a rock doc, but the subject dropped out, so she followed pop star Cuco’s jilted manager Doris instead, as Doris discovers a possible new star in Jacks. None of this was my kind of music, especially when played “live” (as in Sirens, we only get one concert before the pandemic hit), but the story goes to interesting places. The inter-generational immigrant experience brought back The Namesake, and Doris’s dad getting his green card was the fest’s biggest moment since the kidnapping, and the second time we heard mid-film applause. Opener Andreas Kapsalis plays classic covers on fancy acoustic guitar – I remember him from previous fests, and had the same reaction: annoyance at the Pink Floyd song, then warming up to his captivating style.

I’m glad I gave Pereda another shot after Greatest Hits. This starts out rough, but leads to some likeably awkward scenes when Luisa’s new man Paco is failing to make an impression on her dad. Luisa’s brother Gabino is visiting at the same time (played by Gabino, who plays “Gabino” in all of Pereda’s films). Paco is an actor with a nonspeaking role on a season of Narcos, and the others want to see him perform, so he creates a larger speaking role for an impromptu acting showcase at a bar. The master-shot real-time thing, playing with performance and identity, all pretty appealing. But just like Greatest Hits replaced Gabino’s father halfway through (one of the fathers is playing his father again here), this movie shifts modes, becoming a story created by Luisa about strangers meeting at a hotel, all the actors from the first half as different people. It all feels minor but I was smiling the whole time.

Knots Landing and Family Plot star William Devane is a traumatized war vet who is pleasantly dispassionate to the investigating cops after his family is murdered and the killers run his hand through the sink disposal. Now with a hook hand, he gathers up war buddy Tommy Lee Jones and takes a revenge trip to Mexico.

Can pretty young Linda Haynes break through Devane’s armor? No

The year after Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader not a fan: “Schrader [says] he basically wrote a film about fascism, and the studio made a fascist film.” Looking up where I knew the director’s name from… wouldn’t have guessed Brainscan!

The couple years between Buñuel’s two Mexican bus films were productive, and this is a good one – better than Illusions Travel by Streetcar, anyway.

El Bruto is an exploited slaughterhouse worker, mocked by coworkers despite his strength, hired by a local landlord to terrorize the organizing tenants into leaving an apartment complex so it can be redeveloped. I wasn’t intending to watch two collectivist worker films in a row, just a happy accident.

While fleeing from the law after terrorizing the locals, a tragic chicken murder occurs. Then Bruto busts in on Meche, the woman whose chicken (and father) he killed, falls for her and attempts to manufacture a happy ending, but his wife Maria interferes.

Bruto had major roles in a couple John Ford movies and a James Bond. The landlord’s girl Maria Juado had a good Hollywood run in at least three major westerns and Under The Volcano. Wife Maria was better known as a ballet dancer, and Meche was in The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy.

Bruto getting his orders from the landlord:

Bruto’s excuse for everything:

Bruto’s ex is enraged that he’s got a new girl:

Things end as they must, in a hail of gunfire: